Philadelphia: The City That Bombed Itself

(Cross-posted at Liberty On Tour.)

GREENFIELD, IN – Twenty-five years ago Frank Powell dropped a four-pound C4 bomb on a West Philadelphia row house, resulting in the deaths of five children and six adults associated with MOVE – a group that advocated for human and animal rights. Powell was never held accountable for his actions since he wore a piece of metal on his chest from the Philadelphia Police Department. His colleagues, who had fired 10,000 rounds into the dwelling, faced no repercussions. Nor did those who ordered the use of such aggressive violence or those from the same criminal organization that had seven years prior shot-up MOVE’s previous residence.

As the video below details, the history of the Philadelphia Police Department and MOVE underscores the harm that stems from granting others authority. If this concept is new to you and you advocate for peace and believe everyone is responsible for their actions – no matter their title or amount of metal on their uniform – I encourage you to read about private defense agencies.

Much love to our good bud George Donnelly for helping to share this story.

Below are pictures from the incident set to Leftover Crack’s “Operation M.O.V.E.”

For coverage and analysis of other related incidents, check out four videos we shot last year when on the road with Motorhome Diaries:

If you know of an incident that happened in one of the cities that we have yet to visit that if covered, will help to showcase the violence upon which the State rests, please let us know.

  • oooorgle

    Thank you!

  • Jim Babb

    Wow! MOVE seems to be missing from the collective memory of the “freedom movement,” well versed on Waco and Ruby Ridge.

    Thanks for the refresher course.

  • Dragonator

    Don’t forget Waco, OK City, NYC and DC.

    Nukes will be next.

  • Dr. Q

    Dragonator, there’s a link to a video about Waco at the end of the post.

  • You’ve got it wrong with MOVE

    I think you really did a disservice to everyone who views this video. To describe MOVE and John Africa as “anarcho-primitivists” is akin to describing Fred Phelps as “pro traditional marriage”. While both may be technically correct, they do not help the reader/viewer understand what these people are really about, and why they are the focus of others’ attention. I am really disappointed in your reporting here because it makes me question the validity of all your other work.

    Quite simply, the MOVE members at Osage avenue (about a mile from my home) terrorized their neighbors. I do not use the term terrorize lightly. You say that Mr. Africa/MOVE valued all life including animal life – unfortunately he did not value the human lives of those who chose to live/think differently. The black working class block where they chose to exercise his “anarcho-primitivism” of shitting in their front yards were subjected to frequent death threats for offenses ranging from philosophical disagreements to trying to exterminate the vermin and bugs that MOVE attracted and nurtured. You can go here: and visit the excellent work the Philadelphia Inquirer has done on the MOVE story and hear testimony from the neighbors themselves.

    I wonder how any human would react to their young repeatedly waking in the night crying from the pain of biting insects and be impotent to actually do anything about it, because their neighbors actually like the bugs, and threaten to kill the humans if they do anything about them? I wonder how any human would react to near constant propaganda screamed at them through loudspeakers so that they cannot hear themselves think, much less get a good nights’ sleep. (Isn’t that behavior we criticize the .gov for in Waco?)

    I think in an anarchist society, the MOVE group would quite simply have been killed by their neighbors. I doubt if they would have used a bomb, but in a society without police and cages to lock people up in, what do you do if your neighbor tells you he is going to kill you? What do you do if your rowhome neighborhood has people who move in and decide rats, roaches and human waste are appropriate things to occupy the tiny front lawn? What do you do if you find their children eating from your garbage can, and then when you hide good food inside so they may eat, you are threatened with death?

    I believe the Philadelphia police are out of control, racist, brutal, etc. etc., TODAY, so I have no illusions about how they were 25 years ago. That however does not mean that MOVE members weren’t horribly violent abusive people who provoked an us or them confrontation. That the .gov chose a ridiculously destructive means to deal with them is universally acknowledged, and doesn’t have anything to do with “people seeking greater libety” What a crock!

    As far a Waco and Ruby Ridge being similar events, I don’t get it. In Waco, you have people who wanted to be left alone to live their beliefs and did so without harming anyone, and a government agency of thugs who decided they would make good T.V. when their funding was up, so they ginned up some charges and came in guns ablazing at the only time the property was heavily occupied, knowing Koresh went to town all the time and could have picked him up whenever they wanted, and that he INVITED them to search for illegal arms and they refused.

    At Ruby Ridge you have another guy who doesn’t hurt anyone who is pressed into committing a technical violation of a malum prohibitum law by someone acting on behalf of the agency who wishes to arrest him.

    With MOVE, you have people who make it a daily ritual to fuck with their neighbors in a way that makes the neighborhood uninhabitable for those unwilling to follow the semi-retarded illiterate John Africa, and the police are deluged with complaints about the group and it’s constant violation of the rights of others.

    We all know the bomb was not the answer, but what is your solution to the problem of Osage Ave? If the world where organized as you wish, what would have happened there?

    John Africa and all the MOVE members deserved to have their rights not trampled on by the police just like anyone else, but by presenting them as freedom lovers trampled by the man, you do a disservice to the truth.

    As a side note regarding the treatment of children in an anarchist society, what is to be done with parents who are profoundly abusive/neglectful without state actors. I’m not defending the many horrible state child welfare agencies, but I wonder how protections if any would look. FYI – MOVE didn’t believe in using diapers (not disposable diapers, any diapers) and children would run around feces laden. They also didn’t believe in using heat for their home in a city where January and February average low temps are 26 and 27 degrees respectively. MOVE did not believe children should be given winter clothing because they believed clothing weakened the skin. And finally – they thought education, literacy and books themselves were unhealthy.

  • Jim Babb

    George did specifically mention disagreement with their actions that violated the rights of others.

    Whatever their faults, bombing them and burning down the neighborhood was the wrong answer.

  • You’ve got it wrong with MOVE

    “Jim Babb says:
    August 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm
    George did specifically mention disagreement with their actions that violated the rights of others.

    Whatever their faults, bombing them and burning down the neighborhood was the wrong answer.”

    1. Yes, at 6:40 into the video he says “IF” move attracted rats and shouted over the PA, they were wrong. There is no “IF” about it, it’s on freaking film, and the fact that they wait until the video is half over to go into MOVE’s offenses against others is my point that the video unfairly characterizes MOVE as peaceful libertarians.

    2. Didn’t I mention once in my comment that bombing them was the wrong answer? No, I did 3 times!

    “That the .gov chose a ridiculously destructive means to deal with them is universally acknowledged, and doesn’t have anything to do with “people seeking greater liberty”

    “We all know the bomb was not the answer”

    “John Africa and all the MOVE members deserved to have their rights not trampled on by the police just like anyone else”

  • Nullifidian

    Well, thanks to the Philly cops and the FBI, the alleged vermin problem was taken care of by burning down 65 houses for two blocks around Osage Ave.

    Blaming everything on MOVE ignores the fact that the authorities posed the greatest danger to not only the 13 who died in the fire, but also the greatest danger to their neighbors.

    There’s an excellent book on the firebombing at Osage called “Attention MOVE! This Is America!” by Margot Harry.

  • Pete Eyre

    @You’ve got it wrong with MOVE, I appreciate the thoughtful comments. I think we’re all on the same page – that the negative externalities caused by the way the MOVE folks operated (composting, PA, etc.) were very real. The real question then is what is an appropriate response.

    All those that’ve weighed-in have stated that it was not a bomb. So what, between doing nothing and a bomb do you think would have been a just response?

    Personally, I’d hope it’d come down to reputation.

    If, area residents communicate their grievances the MOVE, nothing changes, ostracization would ensue. First from their neighbors then spreading to area businesses, either because they’re owned by those in the neighborhood or because the bulk of their customers – willing to vote with their feet – live in that neighborhood. And there’d be other businesses/associations/organizations that would, per their reliance on personal reputation, refuse to engage with MOVE. Perhaps at some point a dispute resolution mechanism would become involved.

    Those suffering directly from the negative externalities could seek to hold MOVE accountable. If MOVE refused to make whole the victims, the victim on their own or through a hired agent, could obtain MOVE property as compensation. Again, reputation would be key.

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  • Todd

    @You’ve got it all wrong with Move

    I have to agree with Pete, so if the neighbors were fed up with Move, and the city gave them two choices: We’ll either do nothing, or We will drop a bomb on the neighborhood and burn down 61 home to the ground. Which choice do you think they would choose?

    Ans since when does the government care about black people complaining about their neighbors?